City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Orestia Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 30 March 2008

Show Details
Traverse Theatre
Lazzi Experimental Arts Unit
Sandy Grierson (actor/co-deviser), David W W Johnstone (Director / co-deviser), Davey Anderson (sound), Leah Lovett (costume)
Sandy Grierson (Orestes)
Running time: 

It's always a brave company that tackles Aeschylus trilogy of plays known collectively as 'The Orestia'. Like Shakespeare's 'King Lear', its contemplation is perhaps best undertaken in a darkened room under medical supervision.

Aeschylus' vision is vast, deeply disturbing and hearteningly humane by turns, echoing back to our primitive past and immediately now. Centre stage from the audience's arrival, Sandy Grierson dominates through a performance whose physicality cannot be ignored, any more than Davey Anderson's soundscape.

To attempt to pare down the complexities of Aeschylus recounting of the blood-soaked history of the House of Atreus, of whom Orestes is the last male descendent, to a bare hour's traffic on the stage remains a huge challenge for any company, and Lazzi Experimental Arts Unit deserve full recognition for what they achieve. In the time and one person format adopted, however, much remains hinted at or to be inferred from a spare text which veers at times toward an incoherence which may be intended to indicate Orestes' state of mind.

Little wonder he talks a little wild though, this double orphan who's brought at least half his troubles upon himself. This review is no place to indicate how the House of Atreus became so frequently addicted to revenge in the form of murder, nor how the build-up to the final play of Aeschylus' trilogy has left Orestes' home looking like Elsinore Castle after Hamlet's clean-up campaign. However, although Orestes' Furies may indeed reside most properly inside his own head, to appear to miss out Klytemnestra's revenge on Agamemnon, Orestes' father, for the murder by sacrifice of their other child (whether or not preceded by gang
rape), to cite but one missing aspect of plot, leaves us not so much with a
case of Hamlet without the Prince, as a prince railing against misfortunes of
which we're not made fully aware. In a version as short and spare as Lazzi
offers, it's unavoidable that much will be lost; all the more important that what
remains satisfies an audience.

Such decisions are of course part of the demands of any 'classic' text, and part of the process of rendering them accessible to interpretation by modern audiences. The Greeks of Aeschylus' day, however, were in at least certain ways both shrewder judges of character and
motive and more genuinely self-aware than those of us rendered susceptible to the
judgements of strangers and self-proclaimed 'experts'. Although we are all
necessarily post-Freudians now, Greek dramatists draw audiences toward
cathartic self-recognition and self-realisation in ways unachievable by contemporary
therapists (and possibly contemporary dramatists also). To present the
character of Orestes in what seems a consciously phallo-centric production, and
to strip his back-story to matricide does little to draw audiences toward the
carefully constructed depth and breadth of Aeschylus' vision.

Published on 2008

Copyright Bill Dunlop 2008